Last weekend I was asked if I could produce a series of farm animal paintings for our local coffee and gift shop - Kirsten's Cottage at Builyan in the Boyne Valley, CQ - a lovely shop with all things gorgeous - well worth a visit if you are in the area.
Now, farm animals, cute or otherwise, are not my usual subject matter (unless included in landscapes). My first instinct was to say 'no' but it was 'yes' that came out of my mouth. Why? 'Cos I am not interested in being a 'starving' artist. If there is a possibility of earning a quid from some, quick, cute, farm animal paintings then the question is why not?
So I said 'yes' and decided that I would think about the logistics/logic of the decision later. Firstly, I needed to fit it into my schedule (ie reschedule some other stuff). Secondly, I needed some suitable reference photos, quickly. Thirdly, - and this was the big one - I had never painted cute, farm animals or animals with character before and had to rely on my confidence that I could actually pull it off.
I knew that I had several, 40 cm, square canvases that would be just right for the project and loads of extra acrylics (artist quality but not my main fine art supplies - some were my Mum's). I even had some interesting metallics, iridescent acrylics and other special effect acrylics stashed away. It was just a case of finding some source photos, going into the studio and getting on with it.
Now to finding the source photos. Although, I live in a rural area I didn't have time to race around taking photos of farm animals or even to figure out who had which animals apart from cattle. I have a few photos of cattle and sheep but they are intended for animals in the landscape rather than close-up, cute, animal portraits.
My go to sources for photos were a couple of Facebook groups of which I am a member - Photos for Artists and Photos for Artists (for DIGITAL and TRADITIONAL use). The photos are free for artists to use with the proviso that the photographer is credited for the photo. A quick search of these sites turned up several suitable photos and many more possibilities for future paintings. I selected three - a calf - a piglet and a rooster (okay a rooster isn't cute but it does fit the idea of character), printed them and headed out to the studio.
I prepped each canvas with a rough mixture of iridescent medium, Opal matte fluid acrylic, Smoked Pearl matte fluid acrylic, pale gold acrylic and brown earth acrylic using a no. 4, Escoda, thick, hoghair brush. Not being 100% sure of how I wanted these paintings to progress, I decided to experiment with non-traditional colour mixtures - at least not my traditional colour mixtures.
This was followed with a sponge application of pale gold, brown earth, gold oxide, yellow oxide, cerulean blue and iridescent medium. This application set up the background for the piglet and the rooster and the background and basic animal shape for the calf.
With charcoal, I roughed in a sketch of each of the animals. The charcoal was brushed off leaving a very, pale, ghost image behind - so pale it could barely be seen. I quickly re-traced the drawings with thin acrylic before they were in danger of being lost.
The calf was first off the starter's block and was developed to a successful finish. The original photo was supplied by Carri Sue - a photo of Elmer.
This was followed by the piglet. I became so involved in the process that I forgot to take interim photos. The original photo was supplied by Lara Ianuzzi - a photo of Spanky the pig.
Some process photos were taken for the development of the rooster. The rooster started with a rough lay in of local colours. These were refined further before the addition of iridescent blue, red, and yellow to select feathers and areas of the rooster. The background was developed further before the addition of the wire netting fence which was enhanced with silver acrylic. Each of the animals is backed by a fence as a common link.
Once the rooster was finished it needed to dry before varnishing. I use an acrylic gloss medium/varnish as an isolation layer and then spray with removable varnish to completely seal the surface against dust. Today, the air was extremely dry and I was having trouble keeping the acrylic workable. To keep the paint on the palette from drying, I was adding more satin medium than I usually needed for glaze layers (which I was applying). Each layer was left to dry before adding the next. When the final layer was completed, I left it to dry but unfortunately not long enough. Even though everything was drying very quickly and the surface felt dry it wasn't sufficiently cured to apply the isolation coat of gloss medium. Normally, I would have left it until the next day before applying the gloss medium but I really wanted it to be finished.
Well, of course, the gloss medium didn't go on properly. I ended up with a gunky mess that had to be removed quickly - super quickly - panic stations quickly. A pile of wet (from lots of water), sticky kitchen paper later, I had finally removed the last of the medium, most of the final layer of paint and some of the earlier layers (due to the scrubbing action required) Yep! I had to get back to the easel and rework the painting. So much for my impatience to finish.
All done now - except for the isolation layer and varnish which will be completed tomorrow. Here is the final version of the rooster -The original photo was supplied by Karen Broemmelsick - a photo of Duke a French Copper Maran.
The three paintings need D-rings and cord for hanging and some details written on the back (including crediting the photographers) and they will be ready for delivery later this week.
After my initial, but momentary, reluctance to take on these paintings, I am pleased with my efforts and actually enjoyed working on them, even with the rooster painting hiccup. I might consider doing more of this type of work - apart from just fulfilling orders from the gift shop. They were a bit of light hearted fun.
Until next time
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I have had a lifetime passion for drawing and painting. Realistic with an impressionistic touch is an apt description for my work.
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